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Me and Otto Frisch

Me and Otto Frisch

Otto Frisch was one of the great physicists of the 20th Century. I was not. But we did develop a certain relationship.

It was 1971 and I was a PhD physics student at the Cavendish Lab on Free School Lane at the University of Cambridge.

There were certain rituals. In mid morning everyone met for coffee. And in mid afternoon for tea.

The tea was my problem.

After everyone was seated and chatting a guy came in, got his tea cup with no saucer, and got a slew of McVities Digestive Biscuits with no plate.

Then he sat next to me, slurped his tea and broke his biscuits so they sprayed crumbs far and wide. And all over me.

After a few of these incidents I told my fellow PhD student that if this happens again I'll call the guy out.

He totally encouraged me with a wicked gleam in his eye.

It happened again.

So I turned to the guy and said..

"Who the hell do you think you are?"

He replied very politely..

"Oh, I am Otto Frisch. I built the Atomic Bomb on the Manhattan Project with my good friend Enrico Fermi. And may I please ask who you are?"

The whole room was deadly silent and looking in my direction. So I didn't mess around. I told him I was an idiot PhD Physics research student with no clue.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott